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Thursday, 1 February, 2001, 03:55 GMT
Georgia flies new 'non-racist' flag
The Stars and Stripes and Confederate flag fly above the Georgia state capitol building
Some see the Confederate flag as a proud symbol
A new state flag has been raised at Georgia's state capitol building, replacing a banner that gave prominence to the Confederate battle emblem.

Whether for right or wrong, the flag has been used by hate groups to perpetuate their own agendas

William Davis, Atlanta resident
The new flag, ushered into existence in the space of just a few days, is being hailed as a victory for civil rights groups that had threatened economic boycotts of the state if the flag remained unchanged.

It was hoisted on Wednesday morning shortly after Georgia's Governor, Roy Barnes, a Democrat who had supported the replacement, signed into law a bill to change the banner.

The change was approved by the state Senate on Tuesday and by the House of Representatives last week.

Since 1956, the Confederate battle cross has occupied two-thirds of Georgia's flag. On the redesigned flag, the state seal is prominent, with five small flags below. The small flags are a current and past version of the US flag and three previous state banners, including the flag with the rebel cross.

Racial segregation

The Confederate emblem, a Southern cross with white stars and blue bars on a red background, was considered offensive to many blacks who saw it as a symbol of bigotry in the old, slave-owning South.

It was added to Georgia's state flag in 1956 after pressure from some white lawmakers to maintain racial segregation in defiance of the civil rights movement.

But the flag was revered by some white Southerners, who saw it as a symbol of pride in their heritage.

The design of the new flag was a compromise between lawmakers who wanted the Confederate emblem removed from the state flag and those who wanted some semblance of it to remain.

Pressure to change the flag mounted last year after civil rights groups successfully employed boycotts to force South Carolina to remove a Confederate flag from its state capitol.

Referendum call

"Incorporating the Confederate banner on a flag that should represent all the people of the state is a wrong thing," said William Davis, an Atlanta resident who supported the change.

"Whether for right or wrong, the flag has been used by hate groups to perpetuate their own agendas," he added.

However, the decision has angered some Georgians who say the issue should have been decided by a state-wide referendum.

"It is only fair and just that the people of Georgia decide their state flag and not simply the legislators," said Bill Cawthon from the Southern Heritage League.

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01 Jul 00 | Americas
Confederate flag comes down
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